genre satire

The Room

“Hilarious and chilling.” -Times of London

“Daily grind got you down? Escape into this Swedish dark comedy.” -O, the Oprah Magazine, Ten Titles to Pick Up Now

”Bjorn is a compulsive, meticulous bureaucrat who discovers a secret room at the government office where he works—a secret room that no one else in his office will acknowledge. When Bjorn is in his room, what his co-workers see is him standing by the wall and staring off into space looking dazed, relaxed, and decidedly creepy. Bjorn's bizarre behavior eventually leads his co-workers to try and have him fired, but Bjorn will turn the tables on them with help from his secret room.

Debut author Jonas Karlsson doesn't leave a word out of place in this brilliant, bizarre, delightful take on how far we will go—in a world ruled by conformity—to live an individual and examined life.”

(Suggested by Beth McCrea, book club co-founder.)

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The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

The international publishing sensation--over six million copies sold worldwide!

A reluctant centenarian much like Forrest Gump (if Gump were an explosives expert with a fondness for vodka) decides it's not too late to start over . . .

After a long and eventful life, Allan Karlsson ends up in a nursing home, believing it to be his last stop. The only problem is that he's still in good health, and in one day, he turns 100. A big celebration is in the works, but Allan really isn't interested (and he'd like a bit more control over his vodka consumption). So he decides to escape. He climbs out the window in his slippers and embarks on a hilarious and entirely unexpected journey, involving, among other surprises, a suitcase stuffed with cash, some unpleasant criminals, a friendly hot-dog stand operator, and an elephant (not to mention a death by elephant).

It would be the adventure of a lifetime for anyone else, but Allan has a larger-than-life backstory: Not only has he witnessed some of the most important events of the twentieth century, but he has actually played a key role in them. Starting out in munitions as a boy, he somehow finds himself involved in many of the key explosions of the twentieth century and travels the world, sharing meals and more with everyone from Stalin, Churchill, and Truman to Mao, Franco, and de Gaulle. Quirky and utterly unique, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared has charmed readers across the world.”

(A special thank you to book club member, Nicole Viola Hinz-Schouwstra for the suggestion.)

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Transparent City

A Vanity Fair “Hot Type” book, A Globe and Mail best book of 2018, a Lit Hub favorite book of the year, a World Literature Today notable translation, & winner of the José Saramago Prize

“Darkly pretty...peppered with poetry...These disparate stories are woven into a beautiful narrative that touches on government corruption, the privatization of water, the dangers of extracting oil for wealth, and the bastardization of religion for profit.. The novel reads like a love song to a tortured, desperately messed-up city that is undergoing remarkable transformations." - Publishers Weekly

“In a crumbling apartment block in the Angolan city of Luanda, families work, laugh, scheme, and get by. In the middle of it all is the melancholic Odonato, nostalgic for the country of his youth and searching for his lost son. As his hope drains away and as the city outside his doors changes beyond all recognition, Odonato’s flesh becomes transparent and his body increasingly weightless. A captivating blend of magical realism, scathing political satire, tender comedy, and literary experimentation, Transparent City offers a gripping and joyful portrait of urban Africa quite unlike any before yet published in English, and places Ondjaki, indisputably, among the continent’s most accomplished writers.”

(A special thank you to book club member, Carol Weldon for the suggestion.)

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Day of the Oprichnik

“One of The Telegraph's Best Fiction Books 2011

Moscow, 2028. A cold, snowy morning.

Andrei Danilovich Komiaga is fast asleep. A scream, a moan, and a death rattle slowly pull him out of his drunken stupor—but wait, that's just his ring tone. And so begins another day in the life of an oprichnik, one of the czar's most trusted courtiers—and one of the country's most feared men.

Welcome to the new New Russia, where futuristic technology and the draconian codes of Ivan the Terrible are in perfect synergy. Corporal punishment is back, as is a divine monarch, but these days everyone gets information from high-tech news bubbles, and the elite get high on hallucinogenic, genetically modified fish.

Over the course of one day, Andrei Komiaga will bear witness to—and participate in—brutal executions; extravagant parties; meetings with ballerinas, soothsayers, and even the czarina. He will rape and pillage, and he will be moved to tears by the sweetly sung songs of his homeland. He will consume an arsenal of drugs and denounce threats to his great nation's morals. And he will fall in love—perhaps even with a number of his colleagues.

Vladimir Sorokin, the man described by Keith Gessen (in The New York Review of Books) as "[the] only real prose writer, and resident genius" of late-Soviet fiction, has imagined a near future both too disturbing to contemplate and too realistic to dismiss. But like all of his best work, Sorokin's new novel explodes with invention and dark humor. A startling, relentless portrait of a troubled and troubling empire, Day of the Oprichnik is at once a richly imagined vision of the future and a razor-sharp diagnosis of a country in crisis.”

(A special thank you to book club member, Andi McCraine for the suggestion.)

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The Time Regulation Institute

“A literary discovery: an uproarious tragicomedy of modernization, in its first-ever English translation

Perhaps the greatest Turkish novel of the 20th century, being discovered around the world only now, more than 50 years after its first publication, The Time Regulation Institute is an antic, freewheeling send-up of the modern bureaucratic state.
 
At its center is Hayri Irdal, an infectiously charming antihero who becomes entangled with an eccentric cast of characters—a television mystic, a pharmacist who dabbles in alchemy, a dignitary from the lost Ottoman Empire, a ‘clock whisperer’—at the Time Regulation Institute, a vast organization that employs a hilariously intricate system of fines for the purpose of changing all the clocks in Turkey to Western time. Recounted in sessions with his psychoanalyst, the story of Hayri Irdal’s absurdist misadventures plays out as a brilliant allegory of the collision of tradition and modernity, of East and West, infused with a poignant blend of hope for the promise of the future and nostalgia for a simpler time.”

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The Trial

A new translation based on the restored text from the Schocken Kafka Library!

“Written in 1914, The Trial is one of the most important novels of the twentieth century: the terrifying tale of Josef K., a respectable bank officer who is suddenly and inexplicably arrested and must defend himself against a charge about which he can get no information. Whether read as an existential tale, a parable, or a prophecy of the excesses of modern bureaucracy wedded to the madness of totalitarianism, Kafka's nightmare has resonated with chilling truth for generations of readers. This new edition is based upon the work of an international team of experts who have restored the text, the sequence of chapters, and their division to create a version that is as close as possible to the way the author left it.

In his brilliant translation, Breon Mitchell masterfully reproduces the distinctive poetics of Kafka's prose, revealing a novel that is as full of energy and power as it was when it was first written.”

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Hag-Seed

“William Shakespeare's The Tempest retold as Hag-Seed
 
Felix is at the top of his game as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. His productions have amazed and confounded. Now he's staging a Tempest like no other: not only will it boost his reputation, it will heal emotional wounds.
 
Or that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter, Miranda. And also brewing revenge.
 
After twelve years, revenge finally arrives in the shape of a theatre course at a nearby prison. Here, Felix and his inmate actors will put on his Tempest and snare the traitors who destroyed him. It's magic! But will it remake Felix as his enemies fall?
 
Margaret Atwood’s novel take on Shakespeare’s play of enchantment, retribution, and second chances leads us on an interactive, illusion-ridden journey filled with new surprises and wonders of its own.”

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The Wedding of Zein

"The Wedding of Zein unfolds in the same village on the upper Nile where Tayeb Salih’s tragic masterpiece Season of Migration to the North is set. Here, however, the story that emerges through the overlapping, sometimes contradictory voices of the villagers is comic. Zein is the village idiot, and everyone in the village is dumbfounded when the news goes around that he will be getting married—Zein the freak, Zein who burst into laughter the moment he was born and has kept women and children laughing ever since, Zein who lost all his teeth at six and whose face is completely hairless, Zein married at last? Zein’s particular role in the life of the village has been the peculiar one of falling in love again and again with girls who promptly marry another man. It would be unheard of for him to get married himself.

In Tayeb Salih’s wonderfully agile telling, the story of how this miracle came to be is one that engages the tensions that exist in the village, or indeed in any community: tensions between the devout and the profane, the poor and the propertied, the modern and the traditional. In the end, however, Zein’s ridiculous good luck augurs an ultimate reconciliation, opening a prospect of a world made whole.

Salih’s classic novella appears here with two of his finest short stories, The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid and A Handful of Dates."

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The True Actor

Prize-winning author Jacinto Lucas Pires has written a dream of a book—part murder mystery, part satire, & part hallucination.  

"The favored prostitute of Lisbon’s rich and powerful has been found dead amid austerity protests in Portugal, and down-on-his-luck actor Americo Abril, who has just won the role of a lifetime playing Paul Giamatti in the avant-garde film Being Paul Giamatti, is the prime suspect.

Abril seeks the real killer, and he grapples with what it means to be Paul Giamatti. Confounded by the role he plays in the film and the roles that he plays in real life—weary dad, blocked artist, henpecked husband, miserable lover, wanted man—Abril struggles to hold together himself, his family, and his country.

The True Actor, the English debut by award-winning Portuguese author Jacinto Lucas Pires, manages both a postmodern boondoggle and a touching story of identity and love and loss in austerity-era Portugal."

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Baltasar and Blimunda

Written by the Portuguese recipient of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature in his trademark sinuous writing style filled with uniquely long sentences & digressions, José Saramago has written "'a romance and an adventure, a rumination on royalty and religion in 18th-century Portugal and a bitterly ironic comment on the uses of power.' —The New York Times

Portugal, 1711. The Portuguese king promises the greedy prelates of the Church an expansive new convent, should they intercede with God to give him an heir. A lonely priest works in maniacal solitude on his Passarola, a heretical flying machine he hopes will allow him to soar far from the madness surrounding him. A young couple, brought together by chance, live out a sweet, if tormented, romance. Meanwhile, amid the fires and horrors of the Inquisition, angry crowds and abused peasants rejoice in spectacles of cruelty, from bullfighting to auto-da-fé; disgraced priests openly flout God’s laws; and chaos reigns over a society on the brink of disaster.
 
Weaving together multiple story lines to present both breathtaking fiction and incisive commentary, renowned Portuguese writer spins an epic and captivating yarn."

(A special thank you to book club member, Fernanda Guarnieri for the suggestion.)

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Chronicle of a Death Foretold

"A man returns to the town where a baffling murder took place 27 years earlier, determined to get to the bottom of the story. Just hours after marrying the beautiful Angela Vicario, everyone agrees, Bayardo San Roman returned his bride in disgrace to her parents. Her distraught family forced her to name her first lover; and her twin brothers announced their intention to murder Santiago Nasar for dishonoring their sister. 

Yet if everyone knew the murder was going to happen, why did no one intervene to stop it? The more that is learned, the less is understood, and as the story races to its inexplicable conclusion, an entire society--not just a pair of murderers—is put on trial.

Gabriel García Márquez was born in Colombia in 1927. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982."

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The Windfall

"A People/TIME Magazine/Rolling Stone Pick. On Entertainment Weekly's Must-List & Esquire's Best 30 Books of 2017.

A charming satire, Basu unfolds the story of a family discovering what it means to 'make it' in modern India. Mr. and Mrs. Jha's lives have been defined by cramped spaces and the small dramas of stolen yoga pants and stale marriages. They'd settled comfortably into their golden years, pleased with their son’s acceptance into an American business school. But then Mr. Jha comes into an unexpected sum of money, and moves his wife from their housing complex to the super-rich side of town, where he becomes eager to fit in as a man of status: skinny ties, hired guards, and all.
 
The move sets off a chain of events that rock their neighbors, their marriage, and their son, who is struggling to keep a lid on his romantic dilemmas and slipping grades, and brings unintended consequences, ultimately forcing the Jha family to reckon with what really matters. Hilarious and wise, The Windfall illuminates with warmth and charm the precariousness of social status, the fragility of pride, and, above all, the human drive to build and share a home. Even the rich, it turns out, need to belong somewhere."

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The Year of the Hare

"Suddenly realizing what's important in life (with the help of a bunny), a man quits his job and heads to the countryside in this internationally bestselling comic novel. 

'Which of us has not had that wonderfully seditious idea: to play hooky for a while from life as we know it?' With these words from his foreword, Pico Iyer puts his finger on the exhilaratingly anarchic appeal of The Year of the Hare

While out on assignment, a journalist hits a hare with his car. This small incident becomes life-changing: he decides to quit his job, leave his wife, sell his possessions, and spend a year wandering the wilds of Finland-with the bunny as his boon companion."

(A special thank you to book club member, Stéphanie Gourcilleau for the suggestion.)

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I Am a Cat

"'A nonchalant string of anecdotes and wisecracks, told by a fellow who doesn't have a name, and has never caught a mouse, and isn't much good for anything except watching human beings in action...' —The New Yorker

Written over the course of 1904-1906, Soseki Natsume's comic masterpiece, I Am a Cat, satirizes the foolishness of upper-middle-class Japanese society during the Meiji era. With acerbic wit and sardonic perspective, it follows the whimsical adventures of a world-weary stray kitten who comments on the follies and foibles of the people around him.

A classic of Japanese literature, I Am a Cat is one of Soseki's best-known novels. Considered by many as the greatest writer in modern Japanese history, Soseki's I Am a Cat is a classic novel sure to be enjoyed for years to come."

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